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Monastic City
Aoraki_Mount Cook
  • Writer's pictureVien R. Guenther

Celebrating Christmas plus Decorating

Celebrating Christmas is one of the most important holiday events among Christians worldwide. It is to recognize the birth of Jesus Christ, which is celebrated on December 25, although the exact birth date is unknown. It was chosen to correspond with the day early Christians believed he was conceived. The date was also associated with the Roman winter solstice, the shortest time between sunrise and sunset (to pagans this meant the winter is over and spring is coming). One theory believes that Jesus Christ was born either in Spring or Autumn. Spring corresponds with the Jewish Festival called "Passover", when Jews escaped from slavery in Egypt 1500 years before Jesus was born. Autumn corresponds with the Jewish Festival called "Sukkot" or the "Feast of Tabernacles" (a Latin word for "booth" or "hut" which Jews used as temporary shelters during the festival). The feast was to remember that they depended on God for all they had after escaping from Egypt and spending 40 years in the desert. It was also to celebrate the end of the harvest.


The name "Christmas" is a shortened word for Christ-Mass, the "Mass of Christ", a service which is the only mass allowed to take place after sunset and before sunrise the next day. So it became a tradition to hold the mass at midnight. The first recorded date of Christmas being celebrated, though not official, was on December 25th in 336, at the time of the Roman Emperor Constantine, the first Christian to serve in this role.

Some people believed that calling it "Xmas" will take the "Christ" out of Christmas, but in the Greek Language and Alphabet, "Xmas" means "Christmas". The early church used the Greek Alphabet to create a symbol to represent the name of Jesus (Christ or Christos in Greek, Χριστός , hence the letter "X").

Denver City Hall at Christmas


I wonder if everyone knows the real meaning of Twelve Days of Christmas. We hear the English Christmas carol all the time at this time of year, about amassing gifts (364 in all) sent by her "true love", but if you must know, the 12 Days of Christmas start on Christmas Day through the eve of January 5th, also known as "Twelfth Night". It is the span between the birth of Jesus and the arrival of the Three Wise Men, the Magi. It was celebrated in Europe since before the middle ages. Traditionally, each day is to celebrate a feast day for a particular saint and or event. Day one is for Jesus, the second day (Boxing Day in England) is for St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, and so forth.


A figure bearing gifts, traditionally known as Father Christmas, was traced back to the Dutch "Sinterklass" (Saint Nicholas). He was the bishop of Myra, in what is today modern Turkey, during the 4th century, noted for his caring for children, generosity and gift giving.

After the reformation in the 16th to 17th centuries in Europe, protestants changed the gift bearer to "Christ Child" (Christkindl) which became Kris Kringle (in English) later on. Traditional gift giving on December 6 (St. Nicholas Day) eventually changed to Christmas Eve. Santa Claus wearing a red suit and white beard became popularized in the United States as the bringer of gifts.


Christmas Tree

Decorating at Christmas was first recorded in the 15th century. In London they decorated with holly (as protection against pagans and witches), ivy leaves (symbolizing the coming of Jesus), red ivy berries (for the blood He shed) and ivy thorns (for the "crown" Jesus was forced to wear at the crucifixion). Red and green are the traditional colors of Christmas - green for eternal life and red as a symbol of blood. The modern Christmas tree is a tradition believed to have begun in Germany in the 18th century. It had spread throughout Britain by 1841, and by 1870's the United States adopted the custom.

No matter where Hermann and I spend Christmas holidays, I always spruce up our house and make it look festive. I love decorating and crafting, especially during Christmas time. Our pine trees provide me with some fresh materials that I use for decorating. There is nothing like using fresh wreaths and leis, combined with a fresh Christmas tree. The smell of pine needles emanate freshness indoors.


Buying ready-made Christmas ornaments such as wreaths and flower centerpieces is expensive. You can spend much less if you make your own, plus you have the satisfaction of knowing it is your own creation. I have a couple of pine wreaths that I made and use every year. With this you will need a willow hoop, glue sticks, glue gun, spray glue and spray paint. One of the wreaths stays on the wall all year round - I just put different ribbons on it at different occasions. Ribbons are something I use a lot - I love them and I use them whenever I can.

I make most of my flower centerpieces from loose ornaments that I find in craft stores ( Michaels & Hobby Lobby) - they have a large selection and colors for making flower arrangements or centerpieces. You can also get a lot of ideas from these craft stores. But beware, all those beautiful ornaments are quite irresistible and you can easily fill your basket in no time and spend more than what you expected.

Buying Christmas ornaments after the holidays is a lot cheaper, but you have to contend with what's left. Not many choices there, but if you love crafting that is not a problem. I'm sure anything you find will be useful for your next projects.


Ah! Food, It is part of the celebration. Why else do we slave in the kitchen for hours, sometimes for days, preparing a sumptuous dinner. Traditional food varies all over the world, from simple dishes such as fried carp and fish soup and other varieties of fish, to meatless dinners or elaborate lavish meals such as roast turkey, duck, lamb or pork/ham, seafood, sausages and casseroles. In addition to these fares, different types of sweets, cakes and cookies are also on hand.

Christmas dinner is shared at different times of day all over the world. In the Philippines where I grew up, we called Christmas dinner "Noche Buena" which is held after the late evening Mass called the "Misa de Gallo" ("Mass of the Rooster") when Filipinos stay awake past midnight. Each province, or region, has its own combinations of food for "Noche Buena", but often the centerpiece is "hamon" (ham) or "lechon" (roasted pig), a ball of cheese covered in red wax, hot chocolate and some other delicious dishes, and dessert.

In the United States, Christmas dinner is a fusion of various foods influenced by those brought by immigrants to the United States from other countries. Depending on what country you came from, Christmas dinner is always a mixture of traditional food. In our house, ham is usually the centerpiece (or roasted beef or rack of pork) with simple side dishes. But if Hermann and I are spending the holidays with my family, then that is just one of various dishes we have. Dinner is buffet style for a big crowd with a variety of foods from which to choose.

Hmm! Writing about food at Christmas time makes me hungry. It's the time of year when you have an excuse to indulge. Don't think about gaining weight. That's why New Year resolutions were invented. MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL THOSE WHO CELEBRATE!

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